The Record Bar
October 21, 2010
Once upon a time, on the eve of an October full moon, three bands gathered in a land called the RecordBar.
International heroes Hollerado hail from Toronto, Canada. Before we get to the music, it must be said-they have the raddest web site of any band I've ever seen. Allegedly, lead singer Menno drew it, scanned it, and the rest is history. Colorfully hand made and full of character, it accurately reflects their music.
An initial burst of confetti announced Hollerado's RecordBar debut. It jolted the audience into an unexpected happy place. Streamers dressed the ceiling of the RecordBar, tangling with the crowd and band alike. The bass lines and percussion embraced in brotherly love, while giving room to melodic harmonies afforded by each of the four-member band. Staccato lyrics kept the head-bobbing crowd swaying and bouncing in rhythmic timing. Songs like "Juliette" and "Americanarama" encouraged shouts of, "one more," and "I love it!" Pretty unlikely phrases ever heard about the opening band -- and I couldn't agree more. For the record, Hollerado is quickly on their way to becoming big(ger).
Do you guys remember all the way back in April of this year when I went to see Foxy Shazam at The Jackpot in Lawrence? Unfortunately, I do. Jesus, what a mess. I was sort of surprised when I realized they were opening for Free Energy last night. From headlining in Lawrence to opening in Kansas City. (Maybe that's what happens to bad little boys when they bust the shit out of a venue.) There are a few positive things that occurred during Foxy's set last night though. Listed in no particular order, they are conveniently listed below:
- Lead singer, Eric Nally, did NOT piss himself.
- No major damage to RecordBar property incurred (save for the microphone that was repeatedly dropped and thrown).
- A toned-down (from the April show) set featured the actual music of Foxy Shazam.
- Nally's amazing vocal talent wasn't completely overshadowed by his freak-show antics.
- Note: Nally loses a positive point for lighting five cigarettes and smoking them all at once, then extinguishing said cigarettes in his mouth before swallowing. The same stunt was pulled back in April. It was pretty amateur then; now, it's just creepy.
Extra credit points are awarded for an intelligent and seemingly genuine explanation of the behavior, however, with Nally saying, "People always ask me, Eric, why do you torture yourself? And I say, Because I want attention. I do it for attention. If I didn't want attention, I'd be sitting in my basement playing an acoustic guitar." Touche. With crowd sing-a-longs on "Oh Lord" and "Unstoppable," I am surely in the minority of preferring to hear Foxy any which way but live. I just find it so distracting from.....the music.
My FAVORITE radio station, 96.5 The Buzz, hosted a Kegs & Eggs at The Firefly Lounge with Philadelphia's Free Energy. According to frontman Paul Sprangers, some classy KC ladies invited the fellas to The Shady Lady. Oh, Kansas City. There seemed to be an evolving story told in between the first few songs, but we were left wondering what actually happened, if anything, as all members of the band refused to play into Spranger's pleas to divulge the details.
Storytelling aside, Free Energy's set started a little less energetic than its predecessors, but gained momentum. Constant bouncing and half-hearted head banging followed fist pumps galore. A very pop-centric vocal style meshed with classic rock and roll cadences made Free Energy feel fun, but sound a little generic. Because their album, Stuck On Nothing, was released on DFA Records, LCD Soundsystem's James Murphy's label, and has a couple of tracks ("Free Energy" and "Dream City") produced by Murphy, Free Energy has been on really important lists in Rolling Stone, Spin, and Pitchfork, among others, but I didn't hear anything that really blew me away. They sound like early Weezer (before that guy offered Rivers 10 million dollars to break up the band -- brilliant!). Or early Tom Petty. Or just an early band.
Their stage presence has major potential. They're into it. They obviously love what they are doing. There is no question about that. They seem very genuine and humble. Free Energy sounds like what they are: a very new band. Maybe that's the curse of working with someone so popular, like Murphy. The instant commercial attention makes people, like myself, raise the bar a little too quickly. If they were a band I had never heard of, I would most likely be prone to find their unpolishedness charming. The ambivalent sugary pop sound of song after song could be construed as a beginner band with potential. But, because I attended the show with media-induced expectation, I was let down. I can only hope Free Energy will continue to grow into the band everyone says it already is.
Critic's Bias: I saw Kansas City legend Aaron Deets in the smoking holding pen, not smoking or drinking. That guy seriously rules.
Overheard in the crowd: "Well, it's better than staying at home, eating leftovers, and watching re-runs of Hoarders." (Actually, it was overheard in my head, by me.)